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More Knife Making Basics

Beginners need to know the knife making basics. Most beginners, in fact, start with basic knife making kits, and only from there move on to assembling their own knives from materials purchased or crafted themselves. Knife making basics include information on how knives go together, where to find the parts and other supplies, and how to keep yourself safe.

Safety First

Knives are weapons as well as tools. Knife making basics include an emphasis on personal safety. Always wear safety goggles or glasses, and protect your hands by wrapping the blade in masking tape while you're working with the handle. When doing heavy-duty sanding, knife making basic safety requires that you have a breathing filter available; some knives are made of types of carbonized steel that produces harmful dust.

To know knife making basics, you need to understand your materials. Knives are composed of a blade and a handle. Most kits come with a blade, handle, guard, and sometimes a pommel. Knife making basics beyond these four items include an epoxy or other good glue to fix the blade in the handle, sandpaper of various grains, and files both to sharpen your blade and to get rid of burs left behind in the manufacture of your metals. Basic knife making kits will include the three or four main components of your knife, but you'll have to go out and buy the glue and sandpaper.

Knife making basics also require that you know what you're getting when you buy your blade or kit. There are several methods used to make knife blanks those are the blade/tang pieces. One is moulding, which is a form of casting; it may be blacksmithed (all Damascus steel is at least partly blacksmithed); or it could be made with a stock removal method, which is a cutting process. When you learn knife making basics, you should know the difference between the methods, and understand the advantages and disadvantages of all of them.

Knifemaking Methods - A Primer

Stock Removal

With this method the maker starts with a piece of steel, often precision ground. A blade pattern is transferred to the piece of steel. This is often done by spraying the steel with layout fluid, placing a template in the shape of the blade on the piece of steel, and scribing a line around the template. The blade is then cut or ground to the layout lines. If cut, the blade shape is then refined on a grinder. The process of creating the outlined shape of the blade is referred to as profiling. Once profiled the blade bevels are ground (or sometimes filed). When a knifemaker uses this method we often refer to him/her as a stock remover, or say that he/she uses the stock removal method.

Forging or Bladesmithing

With this method the maker takes a piece of steel, heats it in a forge to a point in which the steel becomes malleable. The hot steel is placed on an anvil and shaped with a hammer. The goal with this method is to achieve 90 percent completion of the blade at the anvil. This means that the profiling and creation of the blade bevels are done with the hammer. When the maker has the skill to do this, a grinder is used primarily to refine and cleanup the blade. One who forges blades is referred to as a bladesmith or sometimes just a smith. I'm sure you can figure out why we don't refer to ourselves a forgers. This is an over simplification of how knives are made, but the intention here is just to get the idea across. I once heard an explanation that simplifies the processes even further. A stock remover takes a piece of steel and grinds off everything that doesn't look like a knife. A bladesmith heats up a piece of steel and taps it with a hammer until it looks like a knife.

Basic knife making tools are your next step. When you build your knife, tools for knife making basics will include a vise, a good table on which to work (preferably with a metal surface and a place to clamp your vise), an electric drill with sanding attachment for tedious grinding, and all your safety equipment.

Also in learning knife making basics, you should read about the properties of metal, particularly carbonized steel used in knife making. Basics of metal properties first require that you not overheat your metal; this can damage the crystalline structure that gives it strength and flexibility. If you overheat metal and then don't quench it properly, you wind up with brittle, easily blunted blades. Your knife making basics should include simple information on how to handle heat.

You'll need to learn, with knife making basics, about the different types of knives and metals available to you. Most knives are made with stainless steel or carbonized steel of some sort, with a few made of alloys like titanium. Knife making basics will teach you that stainless steel is the softest and easiest to work with, but the higher grades make better all around knives. When learning knife making basics, start with stainless steel blades, not hard blades.

There are several types of knives you can make, but when learning knife making basics you should stick with the simplest: a straight blade, something like a Bowie knife. Knife making basics for Bowie knives are straightforward and simple: you prepare the blade, slide the guard onto the tang, fix the tang into the handle after ensuring they mate properly, and then finish the blade. You'll learn many knife making basic skills while doing this, though: how to sand properly, the different issues that can come up when matching blade and handle, and safety.

More complicated knives will teach you more knife making basics. For instance, folding knives require one of several types of springs; these springs are designed to keep the blade extended while in use, but easy to fold when you're done. Once you've learned knife making basics, you might want to tackle one of these.

Though it's not quite knife making basics, you should also understand the law where it applies to the sorts of knives you might want. For instance, switchblades are illegal in 37 U.S. states. When learning knife making basics, learn how the law applies to the blades you're making as well. It's no fun to make a great knife and then not be able to carry it around legally.

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